3: Gareth Bale (2013-2022)
While he may be exiting the club under clouded skies, Gareth Bale‘s nine-year tenure was a tale of both ups and downs, mired ultimately by stratospheric highs, untimely injures and the odd controversy or two.
The Welshman made 258 appearances in all for the side, scoring a respectable 106 goals while also providing 67 assists.
Once the most expensive player on the planet after his highly documented transfer from Tottenham Hotspur FC after winning the PFA Player of the Year for the 2012-13 Premier League season, Bale’s role has changed widely over the years.
When he first arrived, he initially hit the ground running, netting goals at a respectable rate in his first three seasons before injuries reared their ugly head.
Over time, there was also a growing concern over his commitment to the club, especially in relation to some of the other interests he developed (“Wales, Golf, Madrid” anyone?).
For the more initiated though, Bale will forever be remembered for the crucial performances he had in some hallmark matches for the club.
The first of those was his game-winning goal in extra-time of the 2014 Champions League final which helped the club secure a title after 12 long years.
He also scored a famous goal in the 2014 Copa del Rey final, where he was released on the left flank and used his prodigious speed to push the ball past FC Barcelona’s Marc Bartra, before bee-lining to the net and beating the goalkeeper on the inside post.
However, his most famous performance arguably came in the 2018 Champions League final where he beat Liverpool’s goalkeeper, Loris Karius, twice in the game to hand Los Merengues the trophy.
One of those was a goalkeeper blunder and the other was a spectacular bicycle kick that will live long in the memory for years to come.